JERUSALEM, Israel - The Iranian regime confirmed on state television Tuesday morning that security forces shot and killed what it described as "rioters" during protests that shook multiple cities across the Islamic Republic in recent weeks.
The report was the first time the government has taken responsibility for killing unarmed protesters in the streets since the demonstrations began. The protests began in November in response to skyrocketing gas prices, corruption, and some protesters even called for the end of the regime.
Iran cracked down hard by shutting down the internet to keep Iranians cut off from the outside world and to ensure the international community does not see photos or videos about the protests.
Amnesty International reported that Iranian authorities have killed at least 208 people, but said the "real figure is likely to be higher."
"We've seen over 200 people killed in a very swift time, in under a week," said Mansoureh Mills, a researcher at Amnesty. "It's something pretty unprecedented event in the history of the human rights violations in the Islamic Republic."
The true death toll is largely unknown due to Iran's crackdown on information leaving the country.
Iran's Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said Amnesty International's death toll is “sheer lies," but did not provide any evidence to support his claim.
"Real statistics are seriously different from what they announce and numbers are far less than what they claim," he said.
The Middle East Research Institute (MEMRI) reported on Sunday that Dr. Leila Vaseghi, governor of Shahr-e Qods, West Tehran Province, admitted on Iranian television that she ordered police to kill protestors "from above."
"I said [to the policemen]: Whoever passes the door to the governor's building – shoot him!" Vaseghi said, according to a translation of her comments by MEMRI.
Iranian Municipal Official Dr. Leila Vaseghi: I Gave Police Orders to Shoot at Protesters pic.twitter.com/YLI5RZlCIG
— MEMRI (@MEMRIReports) December 2, 2019
MEMRI also reported that Iranian Quran expert Abolfazl Bahrampur said on state television on Nov. 26 that protesters should not "merely be killed," but "should die in agony."
In an interview on Iran's Channel 1, Bahrampur said according to the Quran, the protesters are waging war against Allah and should be "crucified."
"...Which means That they should be hanged, 'or their hands and feet on alternate sides shall be chopped off.' Listen up. If we use this measure once, the people who were prepared for the next round will not dare to do it. This verdict must be carried out in public and in the very same spot where the crime was committed," said Bahrampur.
The protests and rising fuel prices indicate that the effect of the Trump Administration's heavy sanctions policy against the Iranian regime is rippling across the country.
Meanwhile, Iranian leaders accuse the US of masterminding the protests.